We reviewed the performance of the Core 100 HT-BD from the standpoint of a HTPC, and it has come out pretty well in almost all perspectives. It does have some shortcomings, particularly for the dedicated enthusiasts who are concerned about the support for 23.976 fps, and those who clamour for complete open source software support. However, these are not really ASRock's faults, but more of Intel's.

Since the introduction of the Clarkdale / Arrandale platforms, HTPCs based on them have been solely built by enthusiasts.  Their requests to Intel to fix issues have usually fallen on deaf ears. If their customers like ASRock are able to build up a good market share and bring HTPCs into the mainstream market, it is quite possible that the frequency of Intel's driver updates would go up and issues would get fixed faster.

Let us wrap up this review with the pros and cons of the Core 100 HT-BD:

Pros

1. Quantum leap in performance and lowered power consumption (maximum of 48W) over similar form factor nettops from last year (Atom / ION)
2. USB 3.0 ports in front get maximum performance out of external hard disks
3. Perfect Blu-Ray playback with bitstreaming and GPU decode acceleration using PowerDVD / ArcSoft TMT / Corel WinDVD
4. Customers without fancy A/V receivers still get the advantage of the THX Studio Pro certification in the VIA VT2020 codec, supposedly better on specifications compared to the Realtek ALC892 (higher SNR ratio)
5. Powerful and stable 300 Mbps Wireless-N networking capable of streaming high bitrate videos.
6. Fancy AiWi gaming feature enables usage of external devices with accelerometers as motion controllers
7. Bundled MCE remote can control almost all media playback programs
8. Easy overclocking from within Windows
9. Ability to install two 2.5" HDDs / SSDs in addition to the optical disk drive.
10. Perfect wake-up from sleep / shutdown using the MCE remote (No different from using a dedicated media streamer like the WDTV Live)

Cons

1. HM55 chipset limitations doesn't allow for full performance from USB 3.0 ports when using external SSDs
2. Needs some overclocking / disabling of C-States and SpeedStep in the BIOS to handle DPC latency issues and some complicated video encodes
3. Noise levels go up from the 25dB at idle to 55dB when the system is under full load.
4. No PCI-E expansion slots inside, ruling out the possibility of an internal TV tuner
5. Monitor resolutions higher than 1920x1080 aren't supported
6. Intel's drivers aren't up to the mark (Absence of 23.976fps support, absence of support for good deinterlacing and noise reduction, no ability to perform skin tone correction)
7. Absence of a unified interface to handle all types of media because of limited support for open source software developers (MPC-HC / VLC) from Intel

ASRock continues to make rapid strides in the HTPC arena with their second generation product, and we really like the fact that they seem to be learning from the shortcomings of their previous generation products based on the ION platform. Despite the cons of the Core 100 HT-BD (the ones which really matter are Intel's and not ASRock's), we have no qualms in recommending this HTPC to anyone planning to invest in a Clarkdale or Arrandale for their home theater. Kudos to ASRock for taking the lead in bringing the first pre-built HTPC based on this platform into the market. We also commend them for putting in a nice balance of features and providing a decent value for the money. This is a sign of good things to come for the company as well as the pre-built HTPC market.

HTPC Performance : Noise, Power Consumption & Miscellaneous Concerns
POST A COMMENT

107 Comments

View All Comments

  • Lostclusters - Sunday, July 25, 2010 - link

    I know the review mentioned things like "Perfect Blu-Ray playback with bitstreaming", and "able to play back all Blu-Rays with bitstreaming to the AV receiver", but there is no mention of whether the sound is at 24 bits or 16 bits. I am sure that the same limiting factors as any other PC comes into play. But as I am currently not very well informed on Windows 7, I'd like to see some mention of this in the review. Both with LPCM and native codec. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    Lostclusters,

    The bitstreaming is perfect. This means whatever bit resolution is present in the soundtrack is passed on as-is, with no downsampling of any sort.

    Its HDMI can pass through Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio up to 192KHz/24-bit , whereas absence of passthrough would mean support for only Dolby or DTS 48KHz/16-bit audio quality.

    Even on the other sound channel, i.e, VIA VT2020 codec, there exists support for Blu-ray audio up to 7.1ch 192KHz/24-bit audio with content protection.
    Reply
  • Lostclusters - Sunday, July 25, 2010 - link

    I forgot to mention that this should be examined not only when playing off a Bluray disk but when playing files off the hard drive as well. Reply
  • Lostclusters - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    Another item not addressed (maybe in the bench marks) is was how it performed an SD media. I know the screen resolution is locked in at 1080. But how well does it play SD media? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    Lostclusters,

    While I agree that the majority of the streams in the test suite were HD (after all, that is the future), we do have 5 - 6 SD streams (evident from the file names).

    What you may be looking for is the upscaling capabilities of the GPU / software. I didn't pay much attention to this, but things didn't look horribly wrong. So, I would say that it is good enough to play SD media also. I am unable to think of a metric which will give you a quantitative view of the capability.
    Reply
  • Lostclusters - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    Check out this link at the bottom of the post under the heading of "My Pick of HTPC":

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=18...
    Reply
  • LNCPapa - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    This device really appeals to me - I was seriously considering going with a Mac Mini + Plex but with the price changes I figured I might as well not give Apple any more my money. By the way - great link post LostCluster - That thread was an awesome read and that guy has done an incredible amount of research.

    If this device had/would launch at a $500 price point I would purchase it now and ask the wife for forgiveness later.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    NewEgg seems to have the non-BluRay model for $580 + shipping:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    Reply
  • Lostclusters - Monday, July 26, 2010 - link

    I have been following Rene's work since his first recommendation on hardware. I have even donated to his work. He is one dedicated individual and has several threads on that forum. Many many good threads there. Chocked full of info. Reply
  • Decaff - Tuesday, July 27, 2010 - link

    I really enjoyed reading through this article, as I am myself looking for a media streamer solution. I do, however, have some points of inquiry.

    First of all, the picture quality testing should be figured out. I have seen television review sites who do regular testing of the picture quality. I know that much of this is a often subjective, but I still think it is paramount that this is analysed, as many home theater enthusiasts are highly sensitive to the picture quality. I do think the use of the HQV test is a good starting point, but I still think subjective measures are in order, as a means of relating the numbers to any percieved loss of quality.
    In essense, the people investing in HTPC's of media streamers will probably also have a quality TV-set/projector attached to it. So the framerate issue could naturally be a killer for many enthusiasts, as I know this particular issue has been discussed on many TV forums, where they are very concerned with configuring the TV properly to the correct framerate in order to achieve the right picture quality.
    Perhaps an alliance with a site that specialises in reviewing picture quality of TV sets?

    Secondly, I think you should be more aware of what software you are using on the machine. Naturally, Anandtech is largely a hardware site, but when dealing with a media streamer/HTPC it is essentially the software that defines the final user experience of the setup. Essentially, if I have just bought a HTPC, I don't want to be pestered with 3 different programs in order for the box to do its job. Rather I (and presumably almost everyone else) wants a nice interface that can handle all the tasks the box it built for, preferably using only the remote control, and the occasional keyboard/mouse when performing tasks that are PC-centric.
    So my suggestion is to make a large article with HTPC software, where you look at the features it offers, ease of use, and naturally and in relation to my first point, the output quality of them.

    Lastly, I'm really looking forward to seeing some reviews of more dedicated (smaller and cheaped) streamer boxes, such as the WDTV live, A.C. Ryan Playon!HD or the Popcorn machines and naturally also a comparison with the gaming consoles as the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360 and how they fare in comparison, regarding codec support, and of course in the area of picture quality and ease of use.
    These last are at the moment those that interest me the most, as I just want a box that can play my movies from an external HDD or a NAS/Home Server, without all the extra stuff (although it is of course nice to have), and I suspect a great deal of people have similar demands and can use another PC to rip their movies.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now